Like so much of his work, Kevin Kling's latest project touches on his motorcycle accident 15 years ago. The near-death experience robbed him of the use of one of his arms, and has made him feel as if he has one foot in the mortal world and one foot in the world beyond.
That's a subtext for most of The Thin Veil, his latest collaboration at Open Eye Figure Theatre, as he embraces the sense that he's something of a living ghost. What follows is an angry, bracing, and striking story that provides the perfect cap for this evening of ghostly tales and haunting music.
It starts with more congenial material, as Kling talks about Halloween as a youth (he wanted to go as a nun one year because that's what scared him the most), before getting into more haunted territory.
The show pulls in a number of haunted tales from around Minnesota, from a 40-acre stand of old-growth pine protected by a logging-camp spirit in the North, to an orphan train saved by a mysterious figure. Along with singing several numbers, Simone Perrin plays "Ghost Girl," a young lady struck down by disease and who enters into a conversation from the other side with Kling.
Still, it is the moment where Kling starts to talk about the accident and how it has forced him to constantly examine his life, death, and spirit that the production truly becomes something special. That includes the mundane act of picking up loose change that has fallen, or the implications of the warm, peaceful place he left to return to the mortal coil.
Aiding the performances of Perrin and Kling is the music provided by Eric Jensen and Jacqueline Ultan. That is intensified by beautiful sound (Sean Healey) and lighting (Michael Murnane) designs. Open Eye's Michael Sommers directs, and also provides intriguing haunted house interludes that employ a tiny set wheeled onto the stage, where books, shelves, and puppets seem to float in midair or move on their own.
This is the eighth year that Kling has collaborated with Open Eye, and it has turned into a joyful annual event. The mixture of skills makes for invigorating and intriguing action on stage. In other words, exactly what you want from a night of theater (spooky or not).
IF YOU GO:
The Thin Veil
Through November 1
Open Eye Figure Theatre
506 E. 24th St., Minneapolis
For more information, call 612-874-6338 or visit online.